OLD LYCOMING TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- U.S. Congressman Tom Marino is suing an 80-year-old woman and her son from Lycoming County for sending an email that accuses the congressman of taking kickbacks and having ties to organized crime.
They are accusations Marino has been working to refute.
The mother and son tell Newswatch 16 they're disappointed the congressman decided to file the lawsuit, but they're sticking by the claims they've made.
Marlene Steele may have let her son put a sign of support for Doug McLinko for Congress at the edge of her driveway, but the woman from Old Lycoming Township never planned to vote for him. She says she was saving her vote for Congressman Tom Marino. That is until she found out the elected official filed a lawsuit against her and her son Michael Steele late last month.
"We're nobody. In essence, we're not a big powerhouse. We don't got pull. We don't got connections. Why he is picking on an 80-year-old lady and her crippled husband and myself who is just a working citizen? We have no idea why," Michael Steele said.
Back in 2014, Newswatch 16 captured the congressman embracing Steele at a victory party.
Now, according to court documents, Marino is accusing him and his mother of invasion of privacy and defamation of character for writing and sending an email.
In it, Congressman Marino is accused of having a "big hand in the spreading of opioids in Pennsylvania and having ties to organized crime."
Michael Steele admits he wrote this private email to his mother and allowed her to forward it to about 10 of her friends.
"Everything has a source for it. There was nothing made up. There was nothing phony. I think if he is truly going to run on his record, then he is going to run on his record," said Steele.
In a statement to Newswatch 16, Congressman Marino's counsel said:
"Lies and ugly ethnic slurs discussed in the lawsuit look like the product of people with a campaign agenda who use others to do their dirty work.
"Regardless, Congressman Marino will protect himself and his neighbors and constituents from anyone who thinks it's appropriate to lie and spread rumors simply to score political points."
"He'll go ahead with it because maybe he wants to make us an example. Here we are, nothing we can do," Marlene Steele said.
In the lawsuit, it says Marino would like the pair to publicly take back their statements and pay punitive damages.